The Vermont independent slammed the bill as "totally inadequate" and questioned how his Democratic colleagues could support it after maintaining for months that at least $2.2 trillion emergency aid is needed. Most of the funding for the bipartisan proposal stems from leftover CARES Act money.
“What kind of negotiation is it when you go from $3.4 trillion to $188 billion in new money? That is not a negotiation. That is a collapse,” Sanders told Politico. “We cannot go home until there [are] strong unemployment benefits plus $1,200 per adult, $500 per kid for every working person and family in this country.”
The $748 billion measure, released by a dozen centrist senators on Monday, includes funding for education, vaccine distribution, transportation, small business relief and federal unemployment aid. A more controversial $160 billion add-on would include aid for state and local governments and a liability shield for businesses against COVID-related lawsuits — the two thorniest issues that have plagued negotiations for months.
The members of the bipartisan group said they all back the narrower measure and urged leaders to bring it to the floor for a vote this week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have not weighed in publicly on the proposal yet but had indicated last week they would be open to supporting a more targeted relief bill.
Sanders told Politico he had privately communicated his views on the bill to Schumer and urged the Democratic leaders to force negotiations on a bigger bill. He argued they could use President Trump's support for a second round of stimulus checks and more government spending to push for more spending.
House “Democrats pass a $3.4 trillion bill, you have the Republicans in the administration talking about $1.8 trillion," he said. "And now you’re down to about $188 billion in new money [in the bipartisan bill], which does not include one nickel in direct payments for working families in this country. Totally unacceptable, and this has got to be rejected."
Last week, Sanders unveiled a bipartisan proposal alongside Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that would attach an amendment for a second $1,200 check to a spending bill that needs to pass by Dec. 18 in order to avoid a government shutdown.
The proposal mirrors the March CARES Act: The $1,200 payments for adults earning less than $75,000 would be tapered for higher earners and phased out completely for individuals who earn more than $99,000. Children under the age of 17 would also receive a check for $500, meaning that a family of five could receive as much as $3,900.
Both senators have threatened to use the Friday government funding deadline to try to force a vote on the stimulus checks.
“Congress cannot go home for the holidays unless we pass a $1,200 direct payment to working-class adults and $500 in payments for their kids,” Sanders said. “Congress is not going to go home until we do that. That’s what the American people want.”
A $916 billion offer from the Trump administration last week included a one-time payment of $600 for adults but compensated for that by slashing funding for federal unemployment benefits. Democrats swiftly rejected the proposal, with Schumer and Pelosi calling the elimination of the jobless aid "unacceptable."